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Women fans helped reduce violence at World Cup

Higher-than-expected numbers of female soccer fans helped reduce levels of hooliganism at this year's World Cup in Germany, a trend that may continue at the 2008 European Championship, organizers said.

The Berlin Senate said violence in the city was less severe than anticipated because more women than foreseen were among the 3 million people who attended the 64 matches and the 2 million tourists who traveled to Germany during the tournament. “The real problem of the World Cup was going to be how we'd cope, but there were no incidents worth mentioning,” Senate spokesman Michael Donnermeyer told the International Football Arena conference in Zurich this week. “The attendance of women had a de-escalating effect.” Ruling body FIFA, which organized the monthlong tournament, said in July that the number of women among the 18 million people who gathered in the 12 host cities to watch games on giant screens had helped temper the behavior of male fans. More than 1 million people viewed Germany's semifinal defeat to Italy by Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. FIFA couldn't give specific figures on the number of female supporters. A record number of women watched live television coverage of the tournament, according to Initiative, a unit of Interpublic Group, the world's third-largest advertising company. About 41% of the cumulative 5.9 billion audience in 54 selected countries were women, it said. “More women means less aggression and usually that men drink less,” Hans-Juergen Schulke, professor of sport sociology at the University of Bremen, said in an interview.

German authorities took measures including granting English police the power of arrest to prevent trouble at the four-yearly event. The country's interior ministry said after the tournament that as many as 2,000 people had been arrested or held in “preventive detention.” Clashes between German and Polish supporters at a first- round game in Dortmund led to 400 arrests, while 400 fans were detained before England's second-round match against Ecuador in Stuttgart. Martin Kallen, the chief operating officer for the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, wants the trend for diversity among fans to continue. “More family members are going to matches -- sons, daughters and wives -- and that brings down the potential of conflicts,” Kallen said in an interview. German police and FIFA praised supporters for their conduct at this year's World Cup, in contrast to previous tournaments. England fans went on the rampage in Marseille at the 1998 edition and 945 were arrested and expelled from Belgium following riots in Charleroi and Brussels at the 2000 European Championship.

“We're not looking at hooligans any less, but since 1992 there haven't been many incidences at European Championship games,” Kallen said. “There was a small one in 2000 in Belgium, but it wasn't as big as made out.” Kallen said the eight cities that will host matches in 2008 will seek to get across the message that they're safe, clean venues in which to watch soccer and take a vacation. “We're really focusing on making matches and events that people really believe are secure,” Kallen said. “Women will go when they believe it's a safe place.” Kallen said he's concerned that security may be harder to arrange in Switzerland because the host cities don't have the open spaces of German venues such as Berlin or Stuttgart. “In Germany they had the luxury of space around stadiums,” Kallen said. “In Switzerland the stadiums are in the middle of downtown. We have to work with less space.” (Bloomberg)